April 30

All Things Unmanned: The Impact of Weather on UAS

by Ross Harrison

These are exciting times in the world of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) and advancements are moving at record speeds. UAS encapsulates the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV/drone), its’ corresponding ground-based controller, and the communications systems between the two.

With ever-improving sensors and cameras, businesses are benefiting from the increased ability to execute on mission-critical applications – from disaster relief, search and rescue missions, and fire services to commercial inspections & crop management. Add to this the advancements in package delivery from industry leaders like Amazon (Prime Air) and Google (Project Wing) and we all are sitting at a ringside to an exciting future.

With technological advancements come both challenges and opportunities. One of the biggest struggles operators face is the influence weather has on UAV performance and reliability. At the same time, one of the greatest opportunities is the ability to improve hyper-local weather data as an input within UAS software platforms.

THE CHALLENGE

Two years ago, The Federal Aviation Administration released a new section of the Federal Aviation Regulations (Part 107) that introduced new rules for commercial drone flights. Prior to flight departure, remote pilots of unmanned aircraft are required to familiarize themselves with available weather information.

Even under visual line of sight (VLOS) operations, small UAS are sensitive to local environmental elements such as visibility, wind speed/ gust/ direction, and precipitation. Large UAS tend to operate at higher elevations. As this industry zooms into beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), ingesting and analyzing geo-located data like Instrument Flight Rules (IFL), live lightning strikes, and forecasted conditions will be crucial for drone pilots to safely navigate in the ocean above.

THE OPPORTUNITY

Environmental data that lies beyond a vehicle is key; the race to develop a superior Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the UAS industry has begun.

Google is opening up the airspace with an unmanned traffic management (UTM) platform for commercial operators and hobbyists to safely navigate the airspace. It is designed to support the drone industry by enabling multiple drones to share the sky and fly safely over people, terrain, buildings, and airports.

Mother Nature however, is providing opportunities to those who know how to speak her language. Environmental conditions like temperature can be harmful to battery life, wind speed/direction effects travel time, and severe weather impacts a missions’ feasibility. UAS developers who are able to piece this puzzle together and take action against impactful weather data will have an upper hand in all things unmanned.

AI is a powerful technology, especially if it’s fed with relevant data. In conjunction with the weather API provided by AerisWeather, developers can model, train, and automate UAS platforms to turn the planned (and evolving) environmental conditions in their favor. On the other hand, weather mapping allows UAV dispatchers and fleet managers the correlating data needed to operate their fleet more efficiently.

UAS is in its infancy stages but growing at a quick pace; scrutiny is bound to be high in this already competitive landscape. Developers who are able to leverage this technology with the most relevant inputs are going to separate themselves from the masses. Let AerisWeather’s hyper-local weather API and mapping platform power your UAS – give us a try and sign up for a free developer account today.

Ross Harrison is AerisWeather’s UAV / 3D Mapping Account Executive. He can be reached at 651-261-4468 or rharrison@aerisweather.com

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